Since 2016, Uber has announced partnerships with MedStar Health, Hackensack University Medical Center, and Boston Children's Hospital. Lyft has announced partnerships with transportation service organizations National Medtrans Network and Logisticare, as well as BCBSA.
Why have these organization, among others, turned away from more traditional van or cab service? We learned a bit more about MedStar's arrangement with Uber to try and figure it out.
MedStar heeds the advice of the nursing staff, turns to Uber to improve efficiency
Like many health systems, MedStar Health had long offered transportation support for eligible patients through partnership with a taxi service. Unfortunately, also like many health systems, MedStar found the logistics of the taxi service burdensome and the rides less reliable and more expensive than ideal.
It got to the point where numerous MedStar nurses pointed out that Uber might be a swifter, lower-cost solution for qualifying patients. MedStar went on to form a partnership directly with Uber, repurposing part of the health system's non-emergency transport budget to the ridesharing service.
Nearly two years later, a few key benefits of partnership stand out:
- Service is faster. MedStar has found that there's an UberX typically less than five minutes away from a qualifying patient, which gives clinic staff a way to prevent a no-show should they identify a patient's transportation troubles last-minute.
- Service is more reliable. Since the partnership began, MedStar patients are no longer running into a previous issue of cars not showing up to collect them. This could be due in part to the fact that rides are trackable in real time and come with a contact number; if drivers are having a hard time finding a patient, they can communicate with clinic staff to get the most accurate directions. Conversely, if a driver is no longer able to pick up a patient, the patient will be automatically reassigned to a nearby driver.
- Service is less expensive. MedStar estimates place the average Uber ride to their sites at 60% of the cost of a traditional cab ride, meaning the non-emergency transport budget can go 40% farther.
- Clinic staff workflow is more manageable. Case managers are able to easily book rides for their patients hours ahead of time, standardizing their workflow. Scheduling automatic reminders for patients cuts down on the amount of time case managers need to spend on the phone and allows them to focus on other responsibilities.
- Analytics on MedStar transportation support offer new opportunities. Because Uber is entirely digital, all information on rides called, conducted, completed is available to MedStar to analyze. There are two main benefits here:
- Identifying service gaps: Through straightforward data review, MedStar can hotspot their geographic areas of greatest need. Maybe they find that patients from one area have to travel a disproportionate distance to access care, or represent a disproportionate percentage of transportation needs. This can inform future service plans and strategies, like locating additional clinics close to these populations or increasing care management staff to deal with the higher burden of social risk factors.
- Risk management: Access to analytics on the car rides themselves provides useful information for risk management. Having records of drivers' paths to and from care sites promotes fair driving practices to keep drivers from gouging the system, and information on the drivers, speed of the ride, etc. can keep patients safe.
Ridesharing services are relatively recent to enter the health care space, and based on the benefits they provide, we don't see them going away anytime soon.